The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has taken a lawmaker, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu and suspended Chairman of the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) Dr. Ransome Owan to Federal High Court, Abuja on frauds involving N5.2bn and N3bn respectively and on separate cases.
In the case involving the lawmaker, Justice Umar Garba of the Court ruled that Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, Senator Nicholas Ugbane, Hon. Mohammed Jibo and seven other accused persons in the Rural Electrification Agency (REA), and contract scam of N5.2bn are to take their plea in the amended charges preferred against them by the EFCC.
The other seven accused with Elumelu who are being prosecuted in the new amended charges are Senator Nicholas Ugbane was serving as the chairman, Senate committee on power; Hon. Ndudi Godwin Elumelu, chairman, House of Representatives committee on power; and Hon. Jibo Mohammed, deputy chairman House of Representatives committee on Power. Others include the permanent secretary in the ministry of power, Abdulahi Aliyu; the Managing Director, REA, Samuel Gekpe, Simon Nanle, Lawrence Orekoya; Abdulsamad Jahun and Kayode Oyedeji.
The accused persons are facing an amended 85 count charge over their alleged involvement in the N5.2 billion fraud in the Rural Electrification Agency contract scam.
One of the charges against the legislators accused them of using their positions in National Assembly to influence the procurement process to obtain unfair advantage in the award of Solar Electrification projects to Helping Hands International Ltd, which contracts were unlawfully awarded from the 2008 Amended Budget of the Rural Electrification Agency(REA) and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 58(4) and punishable under section 58(1) and(5) (a) and (b) of the PublicProcurementAct2007.
While Prosecution Counsel, Godwin Obla at the resumed hearing told the court that all the accused persons have been served with the amended charges, a counsel to one of the accused, Barrister Bernard Afu told the court that the amended count charge was one too many. The presiding judge Justice Garba after listening to both counsel, adjourned the case till the 18th and 19th of February for taking of plea and continuation of hearing.
Meanwhile in a separate case, the EFCC has commenced the trial of suspended Chairman of the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, Dr Ransome Owan and six others as their counsel, Dr Tunji Abayomi dropped their opposition to the fresh charges filed against them.
The EFCC had filed 85 count amended charges against Owan and other suspects including Mallam Abdurahman Ado, Professor Onwuamaeze Iloeje, Dr Abdurazaq Alimi, Engr Mohammed Bunu, Engr Abimbola Odubiyi and Dr. Grace Eyoma over an alleged N3 billion fraud.
Rather than take their plea, Abayomi, who is the defence counsel to some of the accused persons, filed an application to oppose the fresh charges stating that the EFCC was filing too many charges against the suspects but later made a u-turn and sought to withdraw the application “for the interest of liberty”.
Prosecution counsel, Godwin Obla thereafter urged the trial judge to substitute the charges pending against the accused persons with the amended charges dated 21 January, 2010.
Justice Garba, while striking out Abayomi’s application also granted Obla’s request and adjourned the case to 23rd February for taking of plea by the accused.
The EFCC had on 21 January, 2010, filed an amended 85 count charges against Dr. Owan and six others. Dr. Owan and the six commissioners were first arraigned by the EFCC on April 22, 2009 before the FCT High Court, Abuja on a 196 count charge. The accused persons were alleged to have committed offences contrary to sections 97, 315,122, 309, 123, 289 of the Criminal Procedure Code, all bordering on criminal conspiracy, dishonest conversion of public funds, criminal appropriation, theft and disobedience to law. They were said to have allegedly converted billions of naira belonging to NERC for personal use.
The accused persons were later granted bail in the sum of N100 million each, two sureties for each of the accused persons in like sum; the two sureties must be prominent Nigerians with property in Maitama, Garki, Asokoro or Wuse all in Abuja . The accused persons were also barred from travelling and are to report to EFCC head office first and last Monday of every month.